Monitoring the Gulf Stream with Autonomous Underwater Gliders

Robert Todd, Physical Oceanography


Made possible through a donation from the Eastman Chemical Company

Project Summary and Final Report

With partial support from OCCI, four Spray gliders were deployed from Miami, FL between April and December of 2015. The gliders were piloted back and forth across the Gulf Stream as they were carried downstream (northeastward) by the current. Three gliders were recovered south of New England following missions lasting 75-110 days; one glider was recovered early offshore of North Carolina after sustaining damage from a shark attack. OCCI funds were used to support preparation of the first glider, shipping of it to Miami from WHOI, and travel for the PI and one engineer to Miami to deploy the glider.

The pilot program has been an overwhelming success. The feasibility of using autonomous underwater gliders to routinely survey the Gulf Stream along the US East Coast has been clearly demonstrated. New features within the Gulf Stream have been identified, including large amplitude internal waves and thick bottom mixed layers in areas where the Gulf Stream flows over relatively shallow bathymetry. The PI has presented preliminary results from the pilot program at a national meeting, to NOAA program managers, and during two seminars. Results from the pilot program were key to a successful NSF proposal to study shelf-deep ocean exchange at Cape Hatteras. The results have also motivated proposals for continued study of the Gulf Stream with gliders to NOAA and NSF, and a manuscript that will be submitted to Geophysical Research Letters is in preparation.

Related Products:

Todd, R.E., M. Andres, G. Gawarkiewicz. Collaborative Research: An Observational and Modeling Study of the Physical Processes Driving Exchanges between the Shelf and the Deep Ocean at Cape Hatteras. NSF Physical Oceanography, April 2016-March 2020.

Todd, R.E. Glider Surveys of the Gulf Stream during the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Pending
proposal to NOAA Climate Observations Division, February 2016.

Todd, R.E. Finescale Structure and Dynamics of the Gulf Stream. Pending proposal to NSF Physical Oceanography, February 2016.

Todd, R.E., W.B. Owens, D.L. Rudnick. Potential vorticity structure in the North Atlantic western
boundary current from underwater glider observations. Department seminars at WHOI and U. Washington in 2015.

Todd, R.E., New views of the Gulf Stream. Oral presentation at 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting, 26 February 2016.